By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In this installment, we look at the newest Seattle Mariner, how Yuta Watanabe is getting better, and a sad response to an unfortunate death.
Seattle’s newest Mariner
Kolten Wong was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Seattle Mariners last month. The second baseman was traded to the Mariners for Abraham Toro and Jesse Winker.
Wong, who is part Chinese and Filipino, was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii and went to the University of Hawaii to play baseball. His father played collegiate baseball at USC and a short stint in the minors before returning to Hawaii to coach.
Growing up, Wong understood that if he wanted to succeed in his dream to play professional baseball, he would have to travel to be seen by college teams, scouts, and talent evaluators. Hawaii is a beautiful paradise, but the expense of traveling off of the island makes it hard for baseball players. Wong spent hours daily working on his strength and in the batting cage to perfect his swing.
He was selected in the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He broke through to the major leagues in 2013 and became a full-time starter at second base for St. Louis at the beginning of the 2014 season. Wong won two Gold Gloves for his outstanding defensive play with the Cardinals. But in 2021, he became a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, signing a two-year $18 million contract.
The Mariners hope that Wong can fill in at second base and contribute with his bat on offense. He is one of the key acquisitions for the Mariners who hope to improve upon its playoff run last season.
Although this season has not been smooth, Yuta Watanabe is proving to be a valuable player for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. Fighting back from a hamstring injury and adjusting to his new team, Watanabe is making strides in helping Brooklyn get back in the playoff hunt. The Japanese forward sits atop the NBA as of the beginning of January in 3-point-percentage at 51.4%. With his outstanding outside sharpshooting, Watanabe has expressed the hope that the NBA will invite him to participate in the NBA’s All-Star 3-point contest held during All-Star Weekend this February.
Watanabe’s shooting prowess is due in part to changing the mechanics in his shot. He has worked on his footwork in setting up his shot and ensuring that he does not drop the ball below his waist when catching a pass. The small details have proven effective.
After a game this past November, Nets guard Kyrie Irving remarked that Watanabe was “the best shooter in the world right now.”
He also has proven to be a very good perimeter defender. At 6-foot-8, he not only has the length to put up his arms to defend jump-shots but has the size to block a shot or get a rebound.
Filipino migrant worker dies during World Cup
A Filipino migrant worker died at a training site in Qatar during the World Cup held this past December. The Filipino national was contracted to fix lights in a car park when he slipped off of a ramp while walking alongside a vehicle and fell headfirst against the concrete.
The death toll from the construction of structures created for the sole purpose of holding the event are “between 400 and 500,” according to the secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. However, the death toll is believed to be higher in the lead-up to the event, which began years in advance.
Human rights groups have denounced the deaths and the insensitivity of the Qatar government for the migrant workers who traveled to the country in hopes of finding work. Qatari authorities have rejected a compensation fund for families of deceased workers whose deaths are classified as “natural causes” without proper investigation.
In response to the Filipino migrant worker’s death, the chief executive of the Qatar World Cup chastised reporters for asking the question while the country was having “a successful World Cup.” He stated that “death is a natural part of life.” The callous response to the death of a human being is one of the reasons why human rights groups have denounced the event this past December.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.